Jul/Aug 2001 Poetry

After the Statues

by Barbara Lefcowitz


After the Statues

The Taliban rulers of Afghanistan have ordered
immediate demolition of all statues of the Buddha
       —news item, 3 March 2001

Rather than rage about yet another
devastation of art, ponder for a moment
the possibilities: after smashing
those ancient rock-hewn buddhas
the Taliban can recycle the rubble
emulate how the Nazis
cleverly used hacked fragments of headstones
from old Jewish graveyards
to pave new roads and build stairways
that greatly enhanced civic architecture.
Indeed, given the terrain, the Taliban
can build steps not just for some
ordinary office block, but right up
the slopes of the snowy Himalayas
from whose peaks they can issue
calls to prayer straight from the heavens.
If that sounds like too harsh a fate
for what were only some ancient statues,
the more artistically inclined
might crush the rock to a silt so fine
it would produce a most delicate pottery
once merged with clay. Of course,
if the rulers truly have the people's
best interests at heart,
they'll pulverize those buddhas
and stuff them into grain sacks.
The bread that results might be
a bit coarse, but at least it will be filling.
And if anyone happens to find
inside his thin loaf a sliver
from one of the buddhas; jewelled eyes
that person will have such incredible luck
he will be put on public display many days
before being shot in the name
of whatever god at that moment
happens to be declared the winner
of first prize for the absolutely
most sacred and holiest purity.


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